Home > neuroscience, philosophy, Uncategorized > Does consciousness emerge from the brain?

Does consciousness emerge from the brain?

My response to this answer on Quora:
An excellent answer which sums up the current neuroscientific perspective, and which I intend to demolish 🙂
What if we set consciousness aside for a moment and use some other examples?
A conventional camera exposes film to visible light, yet the image is not visible. The visibility of the image depends on a process of chemical development, however that process is not changing the image-related information that is constituted by the microphysical states of the photographic emulsion. We can see therefore, that the image is not emergent from film. The film is perfectly capable of recording optical information without providing any visible image. This is a huge problem of eliminativism, computationalism, functionalism, and physicalism.
A similar example: Binary math vs geometry. For instance:
This image does not exist within your computer’s RAM or CPU. There is nothing shaped like a triangle or a face that is present in the physical hardware or its logical function which has color, shape, or faces. What is present is nothing but generic microelectronic switches which are capable of receiving and sending each other’s state. This arrangement handles all of our information processing needs, but it does not get us any closer to the image that you see above. For that we need a video screen, eyes, a sense of optical conditions, and a visual presentation. The computer of course needs none of these things to compute every detail of the .png file. It does not need to see anything, nor does it need to have any familiarity with geometry. The binary math works just as well with or without visibility or tangiblity. Logic does not need geometry.
By connecting the dots, I can easily see why emergence is false, and why when we use the term ’emergence’ we are actually referring to nothing more than appearances within consciousness, such that it can never apply to physics or logic in any way. Nothing can ’emerge’ within physicalism because physics can have no preferred frame or reference. The existence of a frame of reference in the absence of perception should also be understood to be a fairly obvious violation of parsimony, i.e., Occam’s Razor would shave off the possibility of sense perception if unsensed frames of reference were already performing every physical function in the brain. In theory, there is no reason why a brain could not perform every operation of our conscious mind unconsciously, just as we assume that a single zygote unconsciously performs every function of dividing into a living brain.
What is harder to understand is why some people, especially those in the hard sciences, completely fail to see this. After several years of consideration, however, I have arrived at what I think is a viable hypothesis: The skill set which tends toward expertise in physical systems and logical functions tends to be incompatible with the opposite skill set which is required to develop a robust theory of mind. Neuroscience is mind blind, so it (along with Dennett, Blackmore, etc) promotes a view of the mind without having the correct lens to gain objectivity on their own objectivity. Nobody is to blame, it’s just part of how the Continuum of Sense works. Color and flavor has no more business being undetectable in the brain than specific gravity or temperature are. Emergence is a post hoc contrivance to cover for the (huge, and critically important) blind spot of the brain-minded mind.
  1. March 20, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I am delighted by your film analogy. Chalmers has made similar arguments building on his Zombie thought experiment.

  2. March 21, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Catharine Toso and commented:
    Good read on a classic question

  3. jazzbo9
    March 25, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    I would say that the Brain emerges from consciousness as in my view consciousness is a fundamental property of all matter and energy. I have found that if one analyzes the putative explanation for phenomena proffered by conventional wisdom in light of consciousness, often the opposite of that reasoning is closer to the truth (truth being another slippery concept when put to conventional wisdom.) This comports nicely with your theory of mind vs. physical systems.

    • March 26, 2016 at 4:21 am

      Right, the opposite is closer to the truth. I take it further and see matter and energy as the ‘inverted’, ‘effected’ reflection of the sensory-motive (motive-sensory | electro-magnetic) primitive within itself. Mass-energy is the 2D substance of matter, but matter is 4D geometry of it.

  4. April 13, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I don’t think we can ever hope to get to subjective observers emerging out of what is observed. Subjective observers are fundamental facts which we know from our own experience of ourselves but there existence in others can only be inferred from actions.
    We cant observe observers for that would lead to infinite regress. We can guess that some private mentality may also exist in amoebas, cats and electrons but we can never know for sure. We don’t even know with certainty if subjective mentality even exists in other people. Certainty can never be achieved but we can make good guesses where mentality may exist as a natural part of the world. Emergence of mind as something fundamentally new, a new private mental universe erupting out of nothingness and with no effect on anything, has never made sense and never will.

  5. April 21, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    I would say the brain can create sensations in a deterministic process. Sensations are products of the material world and are generated from certain forms of energy or vibration and then spread out at the speed of light. The brain is not special and does not create new psychophysical laws but make use of them. These kind of pyschophysical laws would be a new addition not already part of the current physical laws.

    The color red generated within the stop light is purely an epiphenomenon in itself. Just the end product of physical activity. But when the red becomes part of the driver’s visual field it is now the source of a braking action. The fact that it became part of a subjective being made a difference. Mental beings do have causal significance and must be included as natural parts of the natural order. How this happens may be related to quantum physics. Perhaps there is a quantum wave associated with each and every mental subject.

    I speculate as to where these monads or natural subjects may be found: http://scientificanimism.blogspot.com

    • April 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      Why would epiphenomena exist though? Why would any physical activity have an end product that was other than a physical activity? Without answers to these questions I think that the more promising approach is to see physics as very primitive qualia rather than ‘red’ as some kind of magical apparition that haunts complex physics.

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